Activists heat up solar energy debate against Duke Energy

6:51 PM, Nov 13, 2013   |    comments
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More than 100 people from 20 different environmental groups took part in a rally Wednesday against Duke Energy. Together, they launched a new group called the Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition.
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St. Petersburg, Florida - On top of the Sierra Club's roof, there are hundreds of solar panels.

And the environmental group is now shouting about clean energy from the rooftops--and from the sidewalks.

"Clean energy now! Clean energy now!" chants a group gathered at Williams Park, which is right across the street from Duke Energy's St. Pete headquarters.

More than 100 people from 20 different groups took part in Wednesday's rally and they launched a new group called the Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition.

The group has started a petition drive directed at Duke's President Lynn Good. It calls on Duke to closes two coal-fired plants at Crystal River by 2016, because of the pollution they produce. The group also wants the company to invest in solar power in the Sunshine State.

"I call on our brothers and sisters at Duke to do the right thing, because it's the right thing to do," said clean energy activist Andy Bell.

No one from Duke would speak to 10 News on camera; however a spokesperson did provide information. Ann Marie Varga says the company plans to continue operating the two oldest coal-fired units at Crystal River until 2018.

And as far solar, Duke does have solar farms in other states, but Varga says solar is still very expensive to produce and energy storage is a problem.

The activists insist those challenges can be overcome, if Duke is truly committed to solar and they think public pressure can change corporate culture.

Activist Rosemarie Grubba from Brooksville shouted into a microphone and asked the gathering this. "We have more sun, we have more water, and we have more wind, so why aren't we a clean energy state?"

It's a question the coalition intends to keep on asking of both power companies and political leaders.

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